Carrying Your Cross For Christ

“The value of your life is only found in the value you put in Jesus Christ as your life.”

by: Elder Kirk E. Hillman

April Reminds Us of Our Spiritual Deficiency in God

If a person is born without physical sight, he/she doesn’t know their condition to be abnormal.  They do not know they are to see things through their eyes.  The appreciation of the world around them is through their faculties of feeling, hearing, and smell.  What they perceive from these inputs of sensations are what they understand to be the normal manner in which someone appreciates the world around them.  Only when someone tells them that they are supposed to be able to see with their eyes to appreciate the world around them, do they become aware of this “physical deficiency” they have and denial and disbelief usually follow the introduction of that truth.

Mankind is like this blind person.  Many believe their life is normal.  They believe that because they are a good person, they are on their way to heaven when they die.  They believe that everything is fine between them and God because this is primarily what they have been told from childhood.

Well, this is not true.  Mankind has a “spiritual deficiency.”  Mankind is under the condemnation of God and has been sentenced to eternal separation and punishment as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Many people hearing this truth for the first time, go into a state of denial and do not believe it; much like the blind person.

Though God is just and must carry out the sentence of punishment He pronounces, He loves what He created and therefore provides a way for mankind to be saved from this condemnation.  The provision is in the person of Jesus Christ who came to earth to take upon himself God’s condemnation and the sentence of eternal punishment and separation.

This is what the Passion Week is all about from April 14th to April 21st.  We should recollect how Jesus suffered mankind’s punishment and died as a substitutionary sacrifice of atonement on a cross, thereby bringing forgiveness and restoration between God and mankind.

God provides through Jesus’ death and resurrection a free gift of eternal salvation for anyone who professes an abiding faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord is saved or brought out from under God’s condemnation.  They are adopted into His eternal family as a son or daughter all because of what Jesus Christ suffered during the Passion Week.

Just like how the blind person would rejoice if he/she received sight, so everyone who has received Jesus to be their personal Savior and Lord should rejoice because of what Jesus Christ has given to them; restoration and Eternal life with God the Father as a result of dying on the Cross of Calvary.

The Passion Week is our reminder of the punishment that waits for anyone who is not reconciled back to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ when the Day of Judgment comes because their name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life as a result of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday are reminders of the gift of mercy and grace for those who come out of denial and believe the truth about mankind’s “spiritual deficiency” in God.

I need rescue, I cannot escape…

Many people cannot spiritually understand nor comprehend what happens to them when they ask Jesus Christ to come into their heart and become Lord and Savior of their life.  They cannot fully understand what changed in their lives.  Many are looking for an outward change that shows that something is different.

Scripture tells us that a spiritual relocation takes place in the lives of all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

We are told in Colossians 1:13:

“For He has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and He has brought us into the Kingdom of His dear Son.”

Many people do not know this truth.  They believe they come into the Kingdom of God by good works.  They do not know that they have been “rescued” from their former lives they lived in the kingdom of Satan and have been relocated to a new spiritual home in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

It is critical that you understand, there are only some life-threatening situations and circumstances that we can “escape” from; the rest require some form of rescue.”  Why?

Because in some situations you do not possess the power to overcome those forces that are life-threatening on your own effort.

It is like a person trapped in a burning room who is unable to overcome the power and effects of the flames, heat, and smoke that are consuming every breath of oxygen. Unable to safely make it to an exit, this person will die of suffocation and burn.

In effect, this person was not able to “escape” from the burning room on their own effort or merit.  They needed some form of external help such as a firefighter or Good Samaritan to come to their assistance.  They needed someone who had the power to overcome the effects of the burning room.

If that had happened, we would say that person was rescued” from the burning room by such and such; we would not say that they “escaped.”

The person who is trapped in the burning room has a final destiny that awaits them if they are not removed – the loss of their life – and they can do nothing on their own to stop it.  Make no mistake about it, they are going to die from suffocation and burning.  Their self-efforts are of no avail because they cannot overcome their physical condition.

This is the situation with mankind and God.  Man cannot escape” the sentence of eternal death that God has pronounced on them as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

It is a fact; man is destined to be thrown in the Lake of Fire to be eternally separated from God and eternally tormented.

The devil wants you to think that you can “escape” from this sentence of death and separation.  He makes you think you are not in any danger with God.  He makes you think that all you have to do is be good throughout your life and you will be able to “escape” this sentence.  That goodness alone will give you eternal fellowship with God.

God tells us something different.  He tells us that we cannot “escape” His sentence of eternal damnation and wrath on our own merits or efforts.

He tells us the only way to have eternal fellowship and union with Him is through faith in Jesus Christ.

He tells us when we believe in His Son for what He did for us by taking our punishment and dying on the cross; shedding His blood to provide the forgiveness of our sins; and entrusting our entire lives over to His care – only then will we be “rescued” by Jesus Christ from the sentence of eternal judgment and condemnation.

Escape Is A Deception Of Satan

Don’t let Satan continue to deceive you with his lie that you can “escape” the eternal judgment of God by your good works.  It is only by believing and having faith in Jesus Christ that you can be “rescued” from God’s eternal judgment and condemnation.

Don’t smother me, give me room to breathe

Christians are commanded to reach out to unbelievers and share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  This is a truth stated by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew prior to His ascension into heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 What I find interesting is that Jesus did not tell us how to do this, He just told us to do it.

In light of this, I have seen many Christians evangelize their faith by drowning their hearers in Scripture verses. I have also seen it done by debating with the hearer.  I have seen it done by critically passing judgment on the hearer because of their unbelief.  Very rarely have I seen evangelizing done by demonstrating love to the hearer.

An unbeliever needs to be allowed to disclose their many preconceptions concerning God, life, death, sin, etc.  They need time to explain their condition to you, otherwise, they will withdraw from the discussion and you will have lost a valuable opportunity to effectively witness to them about the love of Christ.

The Bible gives us a great example of a technique we should use when speaking with an unbeliever.

Acts 17:19-23 (NIV)

19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

 The Apostle Paul took time to study, observe and examine his audience in Athens.  Only when he was able to pinpoint a starting point for his dialogue with them did he present the gospel.  Because of this approach, he was able to hold their attention and “plant” the necessary seeds of the gospel message.  There is much we can learn from this approach.

When was the last time you took inventory of how you witness to an unbeliever?  Are you smothering them with information that is foreign to them?  Remember, the language of the Bible and many of the words you use are of the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world.

Therefore, it is a foreign language most of the time to an unbeliever.

Or are you finding that you pay no attention to the sinner’s worldview; how they think and reason.  Remember, you need to let the Holy Spirit show you where the “soft” spot is in the heart of the sinner you are trying to witness to – that is your entry for the gospel.

Another point of consideration is the outcome you expect when you witness.  Is it that the hearer immediately gives their life to Christ at the conclusion of your encounter or is it that you have successfully planted or watered a seed of faith in their heart?  Remember, it is only our duty to tell them of the good news; it is God who softens their hearts and leads them to Christ.

Evangelize vs Witness

Today, it is extremely critical that every born again believer in Jesus Christ be literate of the distinction between evangelism and giving personal testimony (better known as witnessing).

The definition of witnessing is to testify to one’s religious convictions.  This usually takes the form of explaining to someone what the Lord Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit or the Father have done in one’s life or in one’s circumstances.  This is witnessing to the goodness of the Lord or the deliverance one experienced from the hand of the Lord.  It is testimony that affirms the presence of the Lord in one’s life and how that has caused changes in one’s behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, etc.  It acts as an “advertisement” so to speak to the one hearing the testimony.  It sturs awe, amazement, hope, anticipation, and desire in the hearer to seek the Lord for themselves.  “If He can do it for me, He will surely do it for you”.

The definition of evangelizing is to preach the gospel to.  This pertains to telling someone specifically about Jesus Christ – not you;  His mission, purpose, life, death, burial, resurrection and provision of eternal salvation.  It is the gospel message that convicts, soften hearts, brings contrition and repentance.  It is through the gospel message that one understands how to secure eternal forgiveness and eternal life.  So remember to ask yourself the next time you are having a discussion with an unbeliever if you are witnessing or evangelizing.  Both are beneficial but they are not synonymous.  Remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that one is saved – not through your personal testimony.

Eternal Directives…

The inspired Word of God is very specific about its directives to all born again believers in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:19,20 we are directed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.

In Mark 16:15 we are directed to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

In Luke 24:46-47 we are reminded that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

Why is it then that there are so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ who pay more attention to “worldly” nonsense than to the “eternal” message of Jesus Christ?  Why are there so many believers who would rather “preach” a message of “abundant life” than the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins”?

If not for the “cross of Christ” we would all still be lost, condemned, cursed and eternally separated from God.  This is the message that we are instructed to tell people; this is the message that brings hope into the life of every person wanting to be reconciled to God.  Why aren’t born again believers doing what the Lord has commanded them to do, now that they have received the gift of the Father’s grace?

Don’t be complacent because you are “saved” and “redeemed”.  Don’t be insensitive to the condition of those who are still “lost” and “separated” from God.  Walk in the shadow of the compassion that was shown to you by the Father and Jesus Christ; walk in the gratitude of the love that was demonstrated by Christ on the cross.  Pay more attention to the message that holds eternal consequences and less time on the messages of this world that have no significance.

Show the love for your neighbor by preaching to them their need for repentance so that they too may receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and redemption; and be more willing to teach them in the way of sanctification.

Remember: The Lord is not wanting for anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. (2Peter 3:8-9)